So here’s the next move in the culture wars, an editorial cloud no bigger than a man’s suspiciously well-groomed hand. The Los Angeles
Times has an editorial deploring the Holy See’s new “Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood.” Why? Because, according to the Times, the document emphasizes
that even chaste gay men are to be barred from the priesthood. Never mind that large numbers of gay priests—estimates range from 25 percent to 50 percent—already serve the faithful, with most adhering to their vow of celibacy.
The guidelines never mention the word “gay”; the Holy See is concerned— as the Times is not—to keep libido distinct from behavior, and both distinct from conviction. Nor is it surprising that, for the nonce, most homosexual priests have remained celibate—that is, unmarried. Celibacy is not chastity, however, and anyone who thinks most self-declared gay priests are chaste is deceiving himself.
That said, it’s true that the Holy See’s unwillingness to admit homosexual priests is broader than avoidance of sodomy. The Church teaches homosexual appetite is in itself disordered, and the psychic disturbance that attends the disorder should be healed before a man is admitted to the priesthood, even if he’s physically continent. It’s this unwavering insistence on the homosexual libido as disordered that makes the Times editors so indignant:
The Vatican’s hard line against chaste gay priests seems to be inspired by the condemnation the church justly received for its passive response to the sexual abuse of minors—most of them male—by some priests. But, as Pope Benedict XVI conceded during his visit to the United States this year, homosexuality isn’t the same as pedophilia. That statement was a rebuke to conservative Catholics, and others, who have attempted to equate the two. (Despite the pope’s enlightened comments, he approved last month’s statement.)
As this conservative Catholic has insisted, the problem isn’t gays, but priests who sodomize persons of the same gender; blue collar slang provides several technically accurate alternatives to the gay-label. But the motive for the guidelines suggested by the Times is false. As Msgr. Bruguès made clear at the press conference introducing the guidelines, the document was initiated back in 1995, seven years prior to the general crisis and condemnation to which the Times refers. The ignorance imputed to the Holy See is, in reality, the Times’ own blunder presented to us as a deduction.
Having grudgingly conceded that the Church enjoys the right to enforce even unenlightened norms among her own members, the editors’ next move is to insinuate that the psychologists who assist the Church in screening seminarians are guilty of an ethics violation:
Yet even if the US church is following a more compassionate policy than Vatican pronouncements would seem to authorize, the role of psychologists in screening applicants raises troubling ethical questions, as even psychologists who approve of such cooperation admit. Aiding the church in weeding out homosexuals is hard to reconcile with these guidelines of the American Psychological Assn.
THE CASE FOR INTERVENTION
Troubling ethical questions. Right. Note the kicker in the last paragraph:
If the church—or a diocese within the church—takes the Vatican decree literally, it’s hard to see how a psychologist could lend his or her expertise to the thwarting of a young man’s aspiration to serve God simply because he happens to be gay. In our view, that’s not just cruel; it’s unprofessional.
Does the Times really care about psychologists’ smirching their honor? Of course not. The point is to increase the odium directed at the teaching Church, and, more importantly, to nudge the issue of the Church’s stance on homosexuality out of the “free exercise” sphere toward the publicly regulated sphere, as a potential violation of civil rights.
Pay attention to how the language sets up the move. We’re presented with a young man whose wish to serve God (and we all know the esteem the Times has for THAT desire) has been thwarted “simply because he happens to be gay.” So we’ve got a wholesome wish (priesthood) that a man who “happens” to be disqualified is prevented from realizing “simply because” he has that disqualification. Where have we heard that language before? First the plea is for tolerance, then acceptance, then ennoblement, and finally compulsion of those who refuse to acknowledge the new regime.
What’s behind the fury fueling the protests against Proposition 8? Outrage that voters still have a right to be wrong—and the Church (in the protestors’ view) is the villainess at the back of the bigotry. What the Times calls cruel and unprofessional today will inevitably be termed intolerable tomorrow.
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